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Goblin Squad Member. Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber. Pathfinder Society Member. 1,471 posts. 71 reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist.

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A plethora of details for potions, but with no discussion of wider uses for this

****( )

When gamers think of crafting an excellent campaign, we tend to think of grand sweeping epics that strike major archetypes and tell compelling stories. While that’s not untrue, it misses out on the fact that excellence is often found in details; that the little things are often what bring a game world to life. One of the aspects of these little things are the nature of “mundane” magic items – anyone, for example, can chug a healing potion and move on to the next encounter. But it’s something else again to have any details about that potion, what it smells like or what sort of container it’s in.

That’s an area that Ennead Games fills in with its Potion Details Generator.

Sixteen pages long, the Potion Details Generator is just what it sounds like, providing you with various details for your game’s magic potions (and, as the book notes, these apply just as well to oils too). It does this through a series of tables you can roll randomly on, allowing you to generate everything from the color of a potion to the details of its label (if any) and quite a bit more.

The book divides itself into roughly four sections – the first two being the details of the potion’s container, and then the details of the potion itself (not the game effect, but the sensory descriptions of it). Each of these has several sub-sections with tables for rolling up various aspects of the section in question. The container section, for example, has you roll for the material it’s made of, the shape of it, the size, the label, any marking or decorations it might have, and the cap. The potion itself has similar tables for things like the color, smell, taste, thickness, etc.

It’s not stated outright, but the implication that you should just skip a particular table if that aspect of the potion isn’t applicable (e.g. it has no label) is fairly clear.

It’s after these sections that we start getting into the purely optional materials; here we get things that actually affect the game mechanics of the potion. The first of these are two optional details: the potion’s freshness (e.g. the older it is, the less effective it is) and any lag time it may have before the effects kick in.

Side effects come next. A huge table of a hundred possible effects, these mix together mechanical effects with flavor effects. You could have a potion that causes the drinker’s eyes to glow as easily as you could have one that gives you a +2 to initiative. There’s no real rhyme or reason here.

Quirks follow this. The major difference between a quirk and a side effect is explained in the book’s introduction, and tells us that whereas the latter affects the drinker, the former is an odd quality of the potion itself, and has no real effect on the drinker. So here, for example, we’ll find results (on another table with a hundred possibilities) such as the potion container shakes and vibrates until it’s opened, or that the potion turns to dust when drunk (but still has its effect).

The book closes out with an appendix containing three expanded tables for colors, smells, and tastes – each put into a d100 table rather than a d20 from the preceding section.

Overall, the Potion Details Generator is a book that offers quite a bit of development for such an easily-overlooked area. Everything that’s here is useful, and indeed can quite stimulate the imagination of an innovative GM…which sort of leads me to my major complaint about the book, that being what’s not here.

Leaving aside a few technical details (the book has no declaration of Open Game Content nor Product Identity, and the Section 15 of the OGL has no statement for the Potion Details Generator itself), and that the materials for the potion container could have at least suggested a GP value for them (along with a multiplier for the size of the container), the book’s major issue is the omission of the ideas that spring to mind from what’s here.

While it’s tempting to just assume that magic is chaotic enough that every potion will have its details determined randomly, there’s a lot of potential here for fleshing out the game world by making certain details be consistent with certain criteria. Maybe all of the potions produced by a famous archmage are colored deep red, for example. Or maybe all healing potions smell like lilacs. Ideas like these aren’t discussed, and that’s a shame, because that’s where the greatest potential for world-building is to be found – not in the random details of a single potion, but in the consistent details for particular categories of them. That’s where, I think, the book’s offerings are strongest, but this strength is muted because it doesn’t bring this idea up at all.

That said, if a book’s greatest weakness is that it doesn’t take full advantage of its strength, that’s still a comparatively minor weakness. An enterprising GM will still pick up on this immediately, and use what’s here to help generate details for categories of potions, rather than singular ones. The Potion Details Generator is a great tool for helping to flesh out an easily-overlooked area of your campaign. I just wish it told you how to get the most use out of it.

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The guide that makes selling your soul finally seem worthwhile in Pathfinder.


The nature of power is that it’s hard to obtain, particularly if you don’t already have it. Because of that, the idea of finding a shortcut to gaining the things you want without having to put in the requisite effort required is a tempting one. If such a measure can be found (and if it works), it’s also virtually always incredibly dangerous.

Occult lore has long stated that such a shortcut is to summon and bind spirits to do your bidding. Pathfinder has similar traditions, though unlike the real world ones these actually function (within the context of the game world). Of course, that doesn’t mean that they’re actually effective in their function.

The problem is that game balance defeats the concept of a quick and easy path to power. Worse, since only spellcasters can summon outsiders to begin with, the fact that they can already use powerful spells sort of defeats the purpose…especially when said outsiders can’t seem to offer anything except “service.” What good is that if they’re just offering to kill things for you (as though adventurers aren’t already well-versed in killing things) or use their spell-like abilities (when spellcasters can already use comparable magic)?

In other words, the entire idea of the Faustian bargain is one that, simply put, doesn’t work in Pathfinder. That’s the problem that the Necromancers of the Northwest set out to fix.

Having just read The Deluxe Guide to Fiend Summoning and Faustian Bargains, I can tell you that they succeeded wildly. Let’s look further and see what this book conjures up.

The book opens, in true Necromancers of the Northwest style, with a few pages of fiction that sets the tone for what’s to come. Following this is an introduction that lays out some of the problems with bargaining with fiends in Pathfinder, such as the balance issues mentioned above, and the general lack of details regarding exactly what the fiend wants in return (e.g. “so why did the vrock want 7,200 gp anyway?” “No idea, maybe he wants to make a sword +2 back home?”).

The Guide lays out a four-step process by which making a deal with a fiend is done. First, the fiend in question must be researched. While it’s easy enough to say that this could be boiled down to a few Knowledge checks, this section denotes the different aspects that the research can cover. Just the fiends name alone isn’t enough, you also need its sigil, and after that you can research various lore about the fiend that will be helpful when summoning and binding it (e.g. it’s tempted by lamb’s blood, but repulsed by roses that bloomed under full moonlight, for example). Of course, this is assuming you didn’t make a mistake in your research…

This leads directly to the summoning part of the process. The summons is fairly difficult to do, as you not only have to beat the DC to summon the fiend, but here is where your efforts to make your ritual elaborate can really help or hurt you, as extra steps made to attract the fiend’s attention translate into bonuses on the attempt.

One thing I quite enjoyed about this part was the repeated notation that the effort expended by the summoner in acquiring and performing these additional steps is a very important part of the process. For example, a summons that requires a human sacrifice would provide a negligible bonus if you kidnapped some 0-level drunk off the streets and killed him in his sleep (or killed a mook in combat that you were going to kill anyway). Whereas going out alone at night and single-handedly defeating a foe who is your fighting equal, without killing him, so that you can drag him back and sacrifice him in a ritual manner is going to earn you a much bigger bonus.

This was a recurring theme throughout the book; various actions can get you specific numerical modifiers, but it’s the effort behind them (and, in some cases, the intent) that make these actions qualify. Trying to cheat the fiend by fulfilling the letter of a bargain without really working at it (or using a loophole) will at best get you nothing, and at worst have dire consequences.

Assuming you manage to perform the summoning (and it’s possible to not only fail, but fail with a severe backlash), then you need to bind the fiend. This is essentially a flipside to the summoning, and is presumed to be researched alongside the summons. If the fiend fails its save against your binding check, then it’s bound (and, interestingly, can’t directly lie, though it tries to bend the truth), and you can now start the bargaining.

The actual process of bargaining is given more of an overview than anything else; instead of focusing on the mechanics for cutting a deal, the book takes a surprisingly in-depth look at the things that a fiend can do for a summoner, and methods of payment that fiends will accept in exchange.

This is where it gets interesting. Fiendish “boons” are quantified into seven categories (such as war, magic, lust, death, etc.) each with three tiers, and each tier having two or three specific boons. Different fiends have access to different categories at different tiers that they can grant, alongside a “universal” category that all fiends can grant. (Helpfully, the book notes that fiends can only use these in service to another, and not at will, as they’re powered by the efforts of the summoner; it’s little things like this that made me really enjoy the book.)

These boons run quite the gamut in terms of what’s offered. Virtually all of them avoid being simple retreads of spells (though some refer to spell effects as a shorthand for what they can do). For example, the death 1 boon Attract Accident makes it so that the next time a specific creature is threatened with a critical hit, the crit is automatically confirmed and the multiplier is increased by 1…or, if the target doesn’t get into combat within a week, he’ll somehow run afoul of an accident (e.g. a trap) with a CR equal to one-fourth of the fiend’s. Likewise, the Knowledge 3 boon Pierce the Veil of Secrecy allows the fiend and its summoner to (make a check to) defeat ANY sort of magical or supernatural concealment effects on a specific target.

Boons are, needless to say, powerful. But they have a cost associated with them…literally, as there are point values for each boon. These values come into play in the next section: Payment.

Payment can take many forms (the book says that most fiends would accept most of the forms listed there, though I’d recommend that GMs determine that fiends prefer some much more than others), but all of them are fairly painful for the summoner to part with. Each payment has a cost associated with it, from wealth (the least accepted form of payment, and which has strict guidelines for how much can be used) to your memories (e.g. feats and skill) to human sacrifice, to your own soul. Reneging on these is also discussed, but usually to say it’s exceptionally difficult to pull off. Let the buyer beware, here.

Of course, this wouldn’t be very helpful without some delineation of what fiends could grant what boons. The book briefly discusses using existing creatures here, talking about the differences between using specific creatures versus generic ones (e.g. researching a particular succubus versus one in particular), leaving that largely up to the GM. It then presents two long tables of virtually all of the evil outsiders in the three Pathfinder Bestiaries, one for the calling DC for each outsider, and one for the types of boons they can grant.

All of this takes up about a fourth of the book.

The remaining three-quarters of the Guide is where the authors really outdid themselves. Presented there are seventy-two “new” fiends that can be summoned. I put “new” in quotation marks here because these fiends are actually drawn from the Lesser Key of Solomon, a real occult book of demon summoning which also had seventy-two demons described. Each of them is not only given a unique stat block here (with Challenge Ratings ranging from 5 to 25) complete with unique abilities, but also unique boons that only they can grant (in addition to the boons presented earlier). That’s in addition to a description of their background, their home realm, and specifics that can be found in researching them.

The authors even take the time to talk about these entities in contrast with existing planar conventions, discussing various options that can be used to make these fit in with or stand apart from “traditional” demons and devils, etc. The fact that they all have a new subtype with new abilities certainly helps.

Overall, The Deluxe Guide to Fiend Summoning and Faustian Bargains is one of those books that sets itself into the “required” category of game supplements. Not only does this book set a standard in an area of the game that’s always been glossed over, but it pulls double-duty by presenting a plethora of new monsters, which can be used specifically for summonings or otherwise presented as new fiendish antagonists. I didn’t even get to some of the book’s smaller offerings, like the handy one-page sidebar that condenses the rules for research, calling, binding, and bargaining, or the rules on fiendish possession (it’s a form of payment), using planar binding spells in conjunction with these summons, and quite a few more.

The Deluxe Guide to Fiend Summoning and Faustian Bargains brings a fiendish amount of great new material to your game. And you don’t even have to sell your soul for it.

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A prestige class with a very specific implementation...perhaps too specific

****( )

Despite some greater focus than its predecessor gave it, mounted combat is still something of an underrepresented aspect of Pathfinder. Part of this is due to simple issues of logistics, e.g. it’s hard to take your horse down a set of steps and into a dungeon. That said, little attention is also given to areas like tracking enemies over long distances, or having groups of mounted characters who fight together.

Prestigious Roles: Long Striders, from Amora Games, attempts to put some greater focus back on those latter options.

The long strider is a five-level prestige class, meant to be taken at about 7th-level, based on the skill requirements. I personally would have lowered this to about 5th, since the +5 BAB requirement assures that druids and similar characters would lag slightly behind while rewarding mount-focused martial characters (e.g. cavaliers) that wanted to become long striders.

The class requires that you already have an animal companion or mount of some sort, though it need not be one that can be ridden. This latter point is solved in the first level of the prestige class, as it says that you discard an existing animal companion if it can’t be ridden, gaining a more appropriate one.

The long strider (which refers to the character; confusingly, the mount is referred to simply as “strider”), gains a number of abilities – two per level, and three at 1st-level – that enable him and his mount to focus on, as a theme, hunting. Being able to run for hours at a time without tiring, using their Reflex saves for each other, moving at full speed with no Stealth penalty, the long strider is fairly tight in its focus, and players who want to play a sort of “mounted bounty hunter” will find this prestige class very much to their liking.

The major drawback of the class is that its narrow focus cuts both ways; several of the abilities here make very specific presumptions about the type of mount and the type of character being played. For example, one class ability gives the mount the scent ability – if it already had that ability, you gain nothing. Another ability grants a bonus to range when using thrown weapons while mounted. Don’t use thrown weapons? Too bad, you gain nothing then. Being able to do a quick (dis)mount when you and your mount are very different sizes is nice, but doesn’t help you if you and your mount are only one size category apart to begin with.

It’s these limitations that present the greatest hindrance to the class. If you work within the scope it already presents, there’s a lot here for you; deviate even slightly, however, and you’ll start to lose out. It’s a shame that the class didn’t present some alternate options for those characters who had slightly different abilities than the ones outlined above – saying that if your mount already had scent then the range of its scent doubled, for example, would have seriously widened the versatility of what’s here.

That said, the class is still a good one for those who want what it offers. It eschews bland bonus feat options, for example, and each level offers a comparatively great amount of abilities, something wise since few of them contribute to combat directly. As it is, the long strider sets a great pace, but only if you can follow in its footsteps.

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Despite a few areas that could be tightened up, these are good drow options

****( )

The drow have been archetypal ever since they were introduced back in First Edition, and it’s easy to see why. They took the mystique of that most captivating race, elves, and removed all restraints and inhibitions. Whereas we still think of elves as being Tolkien-esque beings of peace and harmony, drow put that stature towards selfish and violent ends. It’s hard not to be captivated by seeing what such a lack of restraint can do.

That’s a theme that’s served surprisingly well in Abandoned Arts’ Amazing Races: Drow.

The PDF here is a very short one, being four pages long with two pages of content, which is split between new feats, traits, alternate racial abilities, and a new archetype.

The four new feats are something of a mixed bag. I liked the teamwork feat, which grants you a bonus on attacks of opportunity for using aid another actions (since aid another actions desperately need more incentive), and the feat to allow characters with wild empathy to influence spiders was a nice touch also. However, the metamagic feat that let you add a dose of poison to a spell seemed a bit too highly-priced, increasing the spell level by two; I’d recommend changing that to one, since it specifically says the poison DC is reduced for every additional creature affected. Likewise, the Demonic Consular feat had a penalty in addition to its comparatively modest bonuses, which made it seem to be lacking, overall.

The drow traits were much the same. I did like the trait that granted a bonus specifically to convince a charmed creature to do something it didn’t want to, but even for traits that seemed specific. The trait that let you add hit points to demons that you summoned was better, though not nearly as much so as the one that granted you a bonus to attack other drow, simply because of how much of a traitor you are. But by far is the Wicked Pleasures trait, which lets you drag out a coup-de-grace against a creature, and in doing so earn bonuses to attack for a time (presumably for how much you enjoyed it).

The two alternate racial traits are better in presenting a very drow-specific theme. One bumps up your use of Stealth (a bonus and a re-roll), while the other grants two feats that are highly suited for treachery (though the Betrayer feat is incorrectly labeled as being in the APG; it’s actually in Ultimate Combat).

The malus is, as the name suggests, a wicked magus. It adds two new magus arcana abilities, one for inflicting bleeding wounds that resist magical healing, and another to use antipaladin cruelties. It trades its bonus feats for new spells that are anti-good in nature, which seems equitable, but it also gives away medium and heavy armor proficiency for once-per-day use of normal and major hexes. This is where I felt that the archetype fell down, since the use of armor (and being able to cast spells in it) is a pretty big benefit. A once-per-day ability is not worth the trade-off; I’d recommend allowing these to be used at will to make it more equitable.

Overall, the drow options here are quite flavorful for what they offer, though there are a few areas where things don’t quite hit the level they’re aiming for. Still, the ideas are clearly in the right place, even if the execution is imperfect. Nonetheless, those looking to make their drow a little more wicked should find some good options here.

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These archetypes trade in the cavalier's horse, but not the attendant baggage

***( )( )

The raison d’etre of Third Edition, and by extension Pathfinder, is “options, not restrictions.” That is, you shouldn’t be bound by (relatively) narrow design ideologies when trying to make the character you want to make. So if your character necessarily uses a certain type of animal, it flies in the face of that credo, making the Pathfinder cavalier something of a design throwback.

That’s the reasoning put forth by Class Expansions: The Unhorsed Cavalier, by Interjection Games.

The book offers four cavalier-specific archetypes that break the dependence a cavalier has on its horse (or similar animal). Unfortunately, the book stumbles almost immediately out of the gate on its quest to make the cavalier mount-free, largely due to not taking complete advantage of the nature of class archetypes.

This is fairly explicitly showcased in the first such archetype, the attended knight. This archetype trades in the cavalier’s mount for a squire, a low-level commoner who acts as the personal valet for the cavalier. I did admire how the nature of the squire was very well fleshed-out, insofar as saying what its class and levels are, what gear it has, what special abilities it gains by virtue of being a squire, and even how this interacts with the Leadership feat. Indeed, virtually everything was covered here, with one notable exception.

That exception is everything else that’s mount-based about the cavalier class. That is, while this trades in the class-based mount that the cavalier gains, the cavalier still has the class’s Expert Trainer ability, which is a lot less useful now. That can also be said for the cavalier’s charge abilities (Cavalier’s Charge, Mighty Charge, and Supreme Charge), which are still part of the class under this archetype, and yet have far less relevance when there’s no inherent mount granted to the character.

This is an issue that plagues virtually every archetype in this book. The longshanks, for example, gains a few level-based abilities that make using armor easier (though holding off Endurance until 11th level struck me as a fairly late time to gain such a minor benefit), all for trading in the mount. More could have been done in recognition of the need to also trade in the aforementioned class abilities.

The seeker of all knowledge archetype is perhaps the one archetype here that doesn’t fall prey to this. Indeed, this archetype doesn’t mandate giving up the mount at all, because it’s focused entirely around altering the benefits gained from a specific cavalier order (the Order of the Tome). This is an intriguing idea, as orders necessarily have an in-game presence, and so alterations to the benefits have built-in flavor changes, and likely could have been the basis for its own product (albeit with more such archetypes). Why it’s here is a bit of a head-scratcher, save for it being cavalier-focused.

The wind-kissed knight archetype is the last one, focused on the equally intriguing idea of reining in excessive use of magic. The focus of the class admits that there’s no real agreement on what exactly constitutes that, which offers more role-playing potential than I think is covered here. That said, it falls into the same trap, giving two abilities (staggered across a few levels) in exchange for the mount…abilities that I think are slightly too weak for what they give up (e.g. wind-kissed blade offering only a single spell that can be used once per day, changed only when gaining a level? Not very much at all).

Overall, there’s a great idea here that simply isn’t being executed as fully as it could be. This product’s heart is in the right place, but in trying to dismount from its horse, it ends up falling off the saddle.

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